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St. John’s squeaks by St. Francis at home, 76-70

The Red Storm improve to 4-1 after a sloppy win against the winless St. Francis Terriers

NCAA Basketball: St. Francis-NY at St. John Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

The beginning of this Tuesday night New York showdown was all St. Francis. After a two point jumper from Julian Champagnie to give St. John’s a quick 4-2 lead, the St. Francis Terriers caught fire. Junior Tedrick Wilcox Jr. led the three point barrage, starting off the game 4-4 behind the stripe. Prior to tonight, the 6’6” guard from Pawtucket, RI had only averaged 4.0 ppg. Along with a strong take from senior Western Michigan transfer Patrick Emilien, Wilcox Jr.’s three point shooting propelled the Terriers to a 16-4 lead.

This deficit for the Red Storm was a combination of multiple forces. First off, St. John’s came into this game without their second leading scorer Posh Alexander who was ruled out prior with a right foot injury. It was clear that the Red Storm missed his scoring throughout the game. Along with this, senior star Julian Champagnie’s shooting struggles continued, as he opened the game 1-5 from the field.

After another Terriers three to extend the lead to 19-4, St. John’s responded with a 7-0 run capped off by a Tareq Coburn three to cut the lead to six. The Hofstra transfer got some extended playing time early in this game in light of Posh Alexander’s absence. An Aaron Wheeler dunk capped off a 13-0 run for St. John’s in less than 3 minutes showing off the Red Storm’s quick scoring ability. Wheeler and Coburn, both coming off of the bench, gave Mike Anderson’s team a huge spark, combining for 11 of St. John’s 19 early points.

St. Francis continued to show a ton of resilience, making three straight threes, responding to St. John’s 13-0 run with a 9-0 run of their own. Entering the media timeout with under eight minutes to go, the Terriers led 28-19, with 15 of those points coming from the hot hand of Tedrick Wilcox Jr. This was a very surprising start for the Terriers after coming into the game shooting 26.7% from 3. They made more 3s in the first 12 minutes of this game than they had in any other game this season.

After a lot of back and forth, St. John’s slowly began to chip away at the Terrier’s lead and eventually cut it to two right before halftime thanks to a layup from guard Dylan Addae-Wusu, who also got extended playing time in place of Posh Alexander. Sophomore Addae-Wusu would take full advantage of his extended playing time, ending the game with 10 points, seven rebounds, and four steals. Going into halftime, St. Francis led 40-38 with Tedrick Wilcox Jr. and Brooklyn native Larry Moreno putting up 28 combined. The Red Storm’s top contributors in the first half were senior guard Montez Mathis, who led the way with 10, and Julian Champagnie who followed close behind with eight of his own.

St. Francis opened up the second half on a 8-0 run in the first two minutes of the game to give them a 10 point lead, four coming from senior guard and the Terrier’s second leading scorer Michael Cubbage, who would finish the game with 12 points. Julian Champagnie ended the Terrier run with a big slam on the other end. This dunk felt like it was going to be the major turning point of the game as the energy in Carnesecca Arena began to pick up and the Red Storm’s defense began to intensify. Back to back layups from Smith and Addae-Wusu quickly cut the lead to 4, making the score 48-44, leading to a St. Francis timeout. St. John’s picked up right where they left off after the Terriers timeout, with a Stef Smith three and a Montez Mathis slam to give the Red Storm their first lead of 49-48 since the score was 4-2.

Although it seemed like the Red Storm would pull away after finally regaining the lead, St. Francis would not go away, responding with an 8-0 run to bring them up seven. After a little more back and forth and a Patrick Emilien mid-range fadeaway to extend lead to nine, the Terriers would lead 62-53 with less than 12 minutes left in the game and officially put St. John’s on upset watch.

The real turning point in the game would come when guard and St. John’s leading scorer Julian Champagnie started to make multiple shots. After a mid range shot and putback, the senior had cut the Terriers lead down from nine to five. Despite only shooting 3 for 14 as a team, the Red Storm asserted their dominance in the paint. Although only standing at 6’4”, Montez Mathis was in full control down low and was one of two St. John’s players to score 20+ points. The other was Julian Champagnie who scored a team-high 23 points and also had 4 blocks.

After St. Francis extended their lead to 62-53, their hot shooting from the beginning of the game turned to ice cold, and they would only score eight more points for the remainder of the contest. An and-one from senior guard Stef Smith with around three minutes left to go was the dagger, extending the St. John’s lead to 75-68, as the Red Storm would go on to win 76-70, ending the game on a 21-6 run.

The now 4-1 Red Storm are back at Carnesecca on Saturday to play the 1-2 NJIT Highlanders, before hosting No. 4 Kansas on Friday, December 3rd. The still winless St. Francis Terriers will travel to Florida to play against the 2-3 McNeese State Cowboys in the first round of the Emerald Coast Classic.